Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Sasja Janssen

"Virgula, the night I was impregnated"

Virgula,

the night I was impregnated, he was a soft red,
I cried with life, but filled with emptiness I was prescribed
bedrest and my pillows are plumped every day
fluffy blankets are combed and a volley of shots blasts
storms from the sky, nothing is allowed to disturb my belly,
the only thing I am permitted to do is write letters,
or preferably sleep, half leaning against the walls hung
with green fabric and gold rings to fool the devil 

I’m writing to you because you are hovering in the corner of my eye
I’m writing to you because you never answer
I’m writing to you because, like me, you are averse to stagnation 

the wind begins to draw infernally from the middle of
the room, directly above my bed, the shutters creak
the curtains sway their weight, until a small tornado
rises from my lap and my belly balls like a balloon
in the green and gold-ringed dusty night, the sheets are
boiled and I am visited by the midwife who sits on the high bed
with restless legs, we are shown the bible and
I laugh with life

the midwife claps her hands at my unusual
statistically-impossible status, the Holy Scriptures aside, calls me
a daughter of Lot and preaches to my staff
about Noah’s ark but pins two pale butterflies
to the wall right through the golden eyes, as though to remind me
of my suffering, my happiness subsides and the nights,
though dusted green with golden rings, fluoresce
and the days become jammed in a vermillion dawn 

I’m writing because I cannot utter a word
I’m writing because the midwife has stuck her spade into me
I’m writing because I am ashamed of my nursling 

a thunderstorm-sun sneaks silver through the cracks
in the shutters, a strip of dust dances like ears of corn and every
night the midwife shovels emptiness into me, and on the eighth
morning a priest-white cloud the size of an orange
drifts into the room, directly above my bed, I blow all
my maternal love toward it but the cloud moves defiantly
back and forth and hovers above the centre, never before
have I been this alone, the nerves race through my veins 

the midwife shunts the cloud to my breasts so I can
nurse it, but it comes to nothing more than a nebulous nipple,
people grow restless and issue the command to go for a walk and
in the sun the cloud dances above my head, the way you can,
and when it rains it leaves hailstones behind on the pavement,
sometimes I whisper cloudy words to appease it, at first I’m agile
but soon the walks become oppressive, as though the cloud
is conspiring with the open air outdoors

and as I’m about to snap, you stick your sting into the cloud
causing it to burst onto the fabric-clad wall, a tongue of light
is visible, a rumble of thunder, Virgula, my mind has emptied,
and again my belly swells, I can no longer see my feet,
again the midwife returns with her restless legs and her spade,
she stokes the emptiness and the bump becomes enormous, we expect
the worst, a leaden quadrangle cut from watery grey air,
don’t entreat me, I’m writing to you in all earnestness, Virgula Virgula.

"Virgula, de nacht dat ik werd bezwangerd"

Virgula,

de nacht dat ik werd bezwangerd, zachtrood was hij,
huilde ik van leven, maar vol van leegte moest ik bedrust
houden en men klopt elke dag mijn kussens op
kamt de pluizige dekens en met hagel wordt het onweer
uit de lucht geschoten, niets mag mijn buik ontrieven,
het enige wat is toegestaan is het schrijven van brieven,
liever nog slapen, half zittend tegen de met groene
stof beklede muur en gouden kringen om de duivel te misleiden

ik schrijf je omdat je in mijn ooghoek bungelt
ik schrijf omdat je nooit antwoordt
ik schrijf je omdat je niet van stilstand houdt, net als ik

de wind begint heidens te zuigen vanuit het middelpunt
van de kamer, precies boven mijn bed, de luiken kraken
de gordijnen wiegen hun zwaarte, tot een kleine tornado
opstijgt vanuit mijn schoot en als een ballon bolt mijn buik
in de groen en goud ringende bestofte nacht, men wast de lakens
heet en ik ontvang de vroedvrouw die met spelende benen
op het hoge bed komt zitten, men toont ons de bijbel en
ik lach van leven

de vroedvrouw klapt in haar handen om mijn ongewone
statistisch onhaalbare status, op de Heilige Schrift na, noemt me
een dochter van Lot en preekt over de ark van Noach
tegen mijn staf maar prikt twee vale dagvlinders met spelden
aan de muur dwars door de gouden ogen, als om mij aan mijn lijden
te herinneren, mijn vrolijkheid verstomt en de nachten
hoewel groen bestoft met gouden kringen worden fluorescerend
en de dagen blijven steken in een vermiljoenen dageraad

ik schrijf omdat ik niets kan uitbrengen
ik schrijf omdat de vroedvrouw haar handspade in me steekt
ik schrijf omdat ik me schaam voor mijn boreling 

een onweersduistere zon kruipt zilver door de kieren
van de luiken, een streep stof danst als korenaren en elke
nacht schept de vroedvrouw naar leegte in mij, en op de achtste
ochtend drijft een priesterwitte wolk groot als een sinaasappel
in het midden van de kamer, precies boven mijn bed, ik blaas
al mijn moederliefde ernaartoe, maar de wolk gaat weigerachtig
heen en weer en blijft middelpuntig hangen, nooit eerder stond
ik er zo alleen voor, de zenuwen suizen door mijn bloedaderen

de vroedvrouw beweegt de wolk naar mijn borsten om hem
te zogen, maar meer dan een mistige tepel levert het niet op,
men wordt onrustig en geeft de opdracht te gaan wandelen en
in de zon danst de wolk vlak boven mijn hoofd, zoals jij kunt doen
en bij regen laat hij hagelsteentjes achter op de stoep,
soms fluister ik in wolkige taal om hem te paaien, eerst ben ik lichtvoetig
maar algauw worden de wandelingen drukkend, alsof de wolk
samenschoolt met de grotere buitenluchten

en als ik bijna knap, steek jij je angel door de wolk, waardoor
hij tegen de bestofte muur uiteenspat, een tongetje van licht
is te zien, een klein gedonder, Virgula, ik weet niets meer,
en weer zwelt mijn buik, ik kan mijn voeten niet meer zien,
weer komt de vroedvrouw met haar spelende benen en handspade,
ze pookt de leegte op en de zwelling wordt enorm, we verwachten het
ergste, een loodzwaar vierkant uit watergrijze lucht gesneden,
verzoek me niet, ik schrijf je in grote ernst, Virgula Virgula.

Close

"Virgula, the night I was impregnated"

Virgula,

the night I was impregnated, he was a soft red,
I cried with life, but filled with emptiness I was prescribed
bedrest and my pillows are plumped every day
fluffy blankets are combed and a volley of shots blasts
storms from the sky, nothing is allowed to disturb my belly,
the only thing I am permitted to do is write letters,
or preferably sleep, half leaning against the walls hung
with green fabric and gold rings to fool the devil 

I’m writing to you because you are hovering in the corner of my eye
I’m writing to you because you never answer
I’m writing to you because, like me, you are averse to stagnation 

the wind begins to draw infernally from the middle of
the room, directly above my bed, the shutters creak
the curtains sway their weight, until a small tornado
rises from my lap and my belly balls like a balloon
in the green and gold-ringed dusty night, the sheets are
boiled and I am visited by the midwife who sits on the high bed
with restless legs, we are shown the bible and
I laugh with life

the midwife claps her hands at my unusual
statistically-impossible status, the Holy Scriptures aside, calls me
a daughter of Lot and preaches to my staff
about Noah’s ark but pins two pale butterflies
to the wall right through the golden eyes, as though to remind me
of my suffering, my happiness subsides and the nights,
though dusted green with golden rings, fluoresce
and the days become jammed in a vermillion dawn 

I’m writing because I cannot utter a word
I’m writing because the midwife has stuck her spade into me
I’m writing because I am ashamed of my nursling 

a thunderstorm-sun sneaks silver through the cracks
in the shutters, a strip of dust dances like ears of corn and every
night the midwife shovels emptiness into me, and on the eighth
morning a priest-white cloud the size of an orange
drifts into the room, directly above my bed, I blow all
my maternal love toward it but the cloud moves defiantly
back and forth and hovers above the centre, never before
have I been this alone, the nerves race through my veins 

the midwife shunts the cloud to my breasts so I can
nurse it, but it comes to nothing more than a nebulous nipple,
people grow restless and issue the command to go for a walk and
in the sun the cloud dances above my head, the way you can,
and when it rains it leaves hailstones behind on the pavement,
sometimes I whisper cloudy words to appease it, at first I’m agile
but soon the walks become oppressive, as though the cloud
is conspiring with the open air outdoors

and as I’m about to snap, you stick your sting into the cloud
causing it to burst onto the fabric-clad wall, a tongue of light
is visible, a rumble of thunder, Virgula, my mind has emptied,
and again my belly swells, I can no longer see my feet,
again the midwife returns with her restless legs and her spade,
she stokes the emptiness and the bump becomes enormous, we expect
the worst, a leaden quadrangle cut from watery grey air,
don’t entreat me, I’m writing to you in all earnestness, Virgula Virgula.

"Virgula, the night I was impregnated"

Virgula,

the night I was impregnated, he was a soft red,
I cried with life, but filled with emptiness I was prescribed
bedrest and my pillows are plumped every day
fluffy blankets are combed and a volley of shots blasts
storms from the sky, nothing is allowed to disturb my belly,
the only thing I am permitted to do is write letters,
or preferably sleep, half leaning against the walls hung
with green fabric and gold rings to fool the devil 

I’m writing to you because you are hovering in the corner of my eye
I’m writing to you because you never answer
I’m writing to you because, like me, you are averse to stagnation 

the wind begins to draw infernally from the middle of
the room, directly above my bed, the shutters creak
the curtains sway their weight, until a small tornado
rises from my lap and my belly balls like a balloon
in the green and gold-ringed dusty night, the sheets are
boiled and I am visited by the midwife who sits on the high bed
with restless legs, we are shown the bible and
I laugh with life

the midwife claps her hands at my unusual
statistically-impossible status, the Holy Scriptures aside, calls me
a daughter of Lot and preaches to my staff
about Noah’s ark but pins two pale butterflies
to the wall right through the golden eyes, as though to remind me
of my suffering, my happiness subsides and the nights,
though dusted green with golden rings, fluoresce
and the days become jammed in a vermillion dawn 

I’m writing because I cannot utter a word
I’m writing because the midwife has stuck her spade into me
I’m writing because I am ashamed of my nursling 

a thunderstorm-sun sneaks silver through the cracks
in the shutters, a strip of dust dances like ears of corn and every
night the midwife shovels emptiness into me, and on the eighth
morning a priest-white cloud the size of an orange
drifts into the room, directly above my bed, I blow all
my maternal love toward it but the cloud moves defiantly
back and forth and hovers above the centre, never before
have I been this alone, the nerves race through my veins 

the midwife shunts the cloud to my breasts so I can
nurse it, but it comes to nothing more than a nebulous nipple,
people grow restless and issue the command to go for a walk and
in the sun the cloud dances above my head, the way you can,
and when it rains it leaves hailstones behind on the pavement,
sometimes I whisper cloudy words to appease it, at first I’m agile
but soon the walks become oppressive, as though the cloud
is conspiring with the open air outdoors

and as I’m about to snap, you stick your sting into the cloud
causing it to burst onto the fabric-clad wall, a tongue of light
is visible, a rumble of thunder, Virgula, my mind has emptied,
and again my belly swells, I can no longer see my feet,
again the midwife returns with her restless legs and her spade,
she stokes the emptiness and the bump becomes enormous, we expect
the worst, a leaden quadrangle cut from watery grey air,
don’t entreat me, I’m writing to you in all earnestness, Virgula Virgula.

Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
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